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CAN WE HONOR WOMEN WITHOUT DISHONORING MEN?
on March 25, 2016
Kathleen Parker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist, and frequent guest on cable and network news shows. [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 215-page hardcover edition.]
She wrote in the Prologue of this 2008 book, “For the past thirty years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life’s ills… While women have been cast as victims, martyrs, mystics, or saints… men have been quietly retreating into their caves, the better to muffle emotions that fluctuate between hilarity … and rage. In the process of fashioning a more female-friendly world, we’ve created a culture that is hostile toward males, contemptuous of masculinity, and cynical about the delightful differences that make men irresistible… Despite my admiration for the other sex, I confess to occasional ambivalence. As I researched this book, I often thought to myself: What am I doing? I hate men!... It may be the particular dilemma of men and woman that they are doomed to suffer a love-hate relationship---and why not? It is hard to despise that has such a hold on your heart, even if you give that heart freely.” (Pg. vii-viii)
Later, she adds, “to the question of why we should undertake to save the momentous task of saving the males, I have two answers: The short one is because we love our sons. The longer one is because we love our daughters… Young men now in their twenties have never experienced a culture in which men were respected or expected to be gentlemen. Male bashing has been treated as humorous retributive justice by women who have been disappointed and hurt by men. Some of that woundedness has been passed on to our daughters, who absorbed the message that men are bad and have turned against their own male peers.” (Pg. xiii)
She notes, “The gradual eradication of men and fathers from children’s lives… has been our most dubious achievement. Thanks to divorce, unwed motherhood, and policies that unfairly penalize and marginalize fathers, 30 to 40 percent of all American children sleep in a home where their father doesn’t… single motherhood by choice is becoming increasingly popular as unmarried celebrities are applauded for accessorizing with designer babies.” (Pg. x)
She suggests, “The trivialization of fathers was not an accident, though the larger acceptance of fathers as dispensable and disposable may have been… the anti-dad message seeped into America’s unconscious gradually and insidiously. I don’t intend to blame all our ills on feminism, without which I would probably be publishing this book under the name Kevin Parker, but we can’t ignore the role feminism played in helping shape our attitudes toward hearth and home. What is feminism if not antipatriarchy? Who is father if not a patriarch?” (Pg. 39)
She points out, “One does not need to be a psychotherapist to reckon that a girl abandoned by her father will have trouble trusting men or relating to them in healthy ways as an adult. A boy without a father will have trouble learning that he belongs to the fraternity of men and, in the absence of a strong male role model, may overidentify with Mother. How does a boy learn to be a father when he has none to show him? And finally, if fatherhood doesn’t matter, how can we expect boys and young men to aspire to become responsible fathers someday? The answer is, we can’t. Daughters have been especially wounded by the men bad/daddy lousy story they’ve heard from their mothers and the wider culture… Interestingly, we seem to accept that children shouldn’t be raised without mothers, but we regard the contributions of fathers as optional seasoning…” (Pg. 43)
She admits, “life is not fair. Nor has it ever been, especially to women, who have the larger burden when it comes to childbearing… It is that extra burden---and the disproportionate share of child care that follows---behind arguments that women should be the ultimate decision maker in matters of conception. But… in the messy realm of reality, where heartbreak and despair keep company, the answers are not so clear. Real life is, alas, problematic.” (Pg. 55)
She suggests, “We know a mother and father are best, yet we seek ways to prove otherwise in order to ratify our personal preferences… to insist that there’s a ‘good’ reason to minimize the importance of fathers is plainly about agenda and not about children… most of us are lucky if we have one solid adult who loves us unconditionally. That doesn’t mean, however, that just one should be our goal. It is worrisome that we seem content to set the family bar according to the least we can do rather than the best we should aspire to. That we fail sometimes, or even often, doesn’t mean we were wrong to try or that we should accept failure as inevitable.” (Pg. 70)
She observes, “[Men] still ARE valued in combat but are otherwise viewed as obstacles to some feminists bent on military advancement. Since women can’t be more like men---bigger, stronger, fiercer, and roiling with testosterone---the radical feminist approach has been to minimize the importance of the defining characteristics of masculinity, while whittling away at the historical and cultural understanding that war is principally a man’s endeavor… What has been presented as a matter of women’s rights, meanwhile, distorts the purpose of the military. What we are sacrificing in the push to satisfy civilian goals of absolute equality is the reality of what it takes to prevail against real enemies in war and to save real lives. We have allowed ourselves to enter a pretend world where what is false is true---and we have turned a blind eye to the consequences in the name of equality.” (Pg. 158)
She acknowledges, “Surely there is a way to honor women without dishonoring men. And surely we can restore man’s dignity and purpose without submitting to patriarchal rule… We can honor the nuclear family… without condemning women to domestic hell. This task won’t be easy because we’ve managed over the past twenty years or so to create a new generation of child-men, perpetual adolescents who see no point in growing up. By indulging every appetite instead of recognizing the importance of self-control and commitment, we’ve ratified the id. Our society’s young men encounter little resistance against continuing to celebrate juvenile pursuits, losing themselves in video games, plotless movies, and mindless, ‘guy-oriented’ TV fare.” (Pg. 192)
She concludes, “it would seem that restoring the family… is critical to our survival in these untidy and dangerous times. Toward that end, respecting men and the important contributions they make to children’s lives and to society makes more sense than continuously highlighting the strays, deadbeats, dolts, pedophiles, and morons. That there are enough of these to raise concern merely underscores the need for healthy families. My guess is that the bad guys didn’t have healthy families, either.” (Pg. 195) She adds, Saving the males… will ultimately benefit women and children, too. Fewer will live in poverty; fewer boys will fail in schools and wind up in jail; fewer girls will get pregnant or suffer emotional damage from too early sex with uncaring boys. Fewer young men and women will suffer loneliness and loss because they’re grown up in a climate of sexual hostility that casts the opposite sex as either villain or victim.” (Pg. 198)
Ms. Parker perhaps minimizes the “negative” side of some men in her book (e.g., deadbeat fathers; men who abandon their wives for younger women; irresponsible “child-men” who avoid responsibility, etc.). But on the whole, this is a welcome (if more “journalistic” than “academic”) counterpoint to some of the “male-bashing” books out there. It will interest most people interested in gender issues, feminism, etc.